Bruce Cassidy and the Boston Bruins coaching staff got their first glance at their hockey club Sunday night against the Washington Capitals.
Jeremy Swayman checked in with a solid first impression, stopping 19 of 20 shots in over a period and a half of work. 2021 first-round selection Fabian Lysell showcased glimpses of his potential on an intriguing line with fellow prospects Alex Steen and Jakub Lauko.
Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula, a potential opening night trio with Nick Foligno, showcased initial chemistry on Boston’s de fact top line of the evening. The former notched the shootout winner to cap off a 3-2 Bruins victory. The oft-injured John Moore, suiting up for the first time in seven months, notched assists on each of those two tallies.
Cassidy and company will suit up for preseason action every other night from now until Oct. 6. Here is what we learned from the first of their six exhibition tilts.
‘Good positive signs’ for DeBrusk
The Edmonton-born forward enters a pivotal 2021-22 campaign following the worst season of his career. Injuries, a COVID diagnosis and inconsistent efforts led to DeBrusk jumping around the lineup. At times, he found himself inside Cassidy’s doghouse leading to multiple healthy scratches during the 56-game slate.
DeBrusk and Cassidy engaged in a healthy discussion during the off-season. The Bruins need their 2015 first-round selection to become more engaged and provide timely secondary scoring.
In a somewhat choppy preseason tilt, DeBrusk put forth a solid work effort, creating multiple scoring chances with his keen puck pursuit in front of the Caps net. He parked himself in front of the Caps net more often than not, and earned a greasy goal in the opening frame. DeBrusk ended his evening with a top-shelf blast in the third round of the shootout.
“I think for him when he produces he always feels better about himself. He’s around the puck,” Cassidy said of DeBrusk’s effort on Sunday. “The way he scored, going to the net, I think those are good, positive signs for him. He’s been with Haula in training camp. They really seemed to mesh again today. That’s a good thing for us if they can play well together, find some chemistry.”
Of course, one preseason game doesn’t forecast a player’s season. For the most part, the veterans use the exhibition slate to reacclimate themselves to the pace of the game after a few months away from the rink.
But, DeBrusk, if anyone, needed to start the preseason on a high note.
“Anytime the puck goes in the net it’s always nice,” DeBrusk said. “It is just the preseason, but it’s nice to help the team win.”
Lysell looked assertive in his first North American game
If his development progresses accordingly, Lysell will suit up for the big club within the next year or two. The talented Swede, selected 21st overall in this summer’s draft, will likely head to Vancouver of the WHL to begin his North American career.
That trend continued on Sunday as Lysell hardly looked out of place during his first taste of North American hockey. Behind his crafty playmaking skillset, the 18-year-old fired three shots on net — matching a team-high with DeBrusk — on an intriguing line with fellow prospects Lauko and Steen and even found himself in the middle of a scrum late in the second period.
“He was around the puck, pulled it to space when he needed to. Attacked the front of the net, pushed back when he had to. Made a heck of a play on the wall late to get it to the middle for a scoring chance,” Cassidy said of Lysell. “So, he did a lot of things well. Attacked, didn’t look flustered, strong on his skates. A lot of good things for his first game. I thought he did a real nice job.”
Moore ‘feeling great’ following rehab
Exactly seven months passed from Moore’s last game in New York against the Rangers to Sunday’s preseason opener. The veteran blue-liner underwent hip surgery with a 5-6 month recovery timetable back in March.
Following rehab, Moore entered training camp without any limitations to his workload. Cassidy didn’t waste any time trotting out Moore for Sunday, slotting him on the top pair with Jakub Zboril. Moore provided timely assists on Boston’s lamplighters from DeBrusk and Haula, delivered a couple of solid hits, and blocked a pair of shots in 21:21 of ice time, including a team-high 4:01 of shorthanded time on ice.
Aside from shaking off the proverbial rust, Moore felt right at home lacing up the skates again.
“I felt great,” Moore said. “Coming off a really I was so excited to see my name on the board and get the opportunity to play. I love hockey. It’s always in the back of your mind when you go through those things — that you might never come back — so I’m just grateful to be out there and competing.”
Moore finds himself on the outside looking in with the six blue-line spots all but locked. But Cassidy will undoubtedly tab Moore as the next defenseman up.
“He’s a guy that’s in a battle for playing time this year, so these games are important to him,” Cassidy said regarding Moore. “He missed time, a lot of time, and he’s in a battle for a spot, so these games are of more value. He’s been very focused in practice, very business-like, and he was again tonight.”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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